We are now living in an era were virtual, augmented, and mixed reality are no longer science fiction. It’s a new reality we’re opening up to, and we’re lucky enough to be the first generation to experience it.
2016 has been the year of virtual reality. It will continue to grow at either a rapid or steady pace. Now that it’s set in motion, we should take a look at it’s sister technology.
Augmented/Mixed reality is going to be much bigger but will take longer. Over this time we’re going to see more companies develop their own AR/MR devices. But what kind of device are we working towards?
There should be an ultimate device to fulfill our sci-fi fantasies. This ultimate “fantasy” MR/AR device should set the standards and benchmarks that companies should strive for over the next couple of years. We’re going to take a look at the desired features of an ultimate device.
The style of devices will be the keystone factor to consumer adoption. There needs to be a heavy emphasis on the industrial design. Designers and engineers need to coordinate together to make these headsets look as normal as possible.
But what is normal as possible? In order to achieve normalcy, the design needs to shift from a headset to a simple pair of eyeglasses. A versatile pair of glasses will support everyday applications without any special fixtures to the head. A variety of eyeglass designs can be offered to accommodate the most amount of people without compromising style.
But in order to go from headset to eyeglasses, the hardware needs to be reassessed. For design inspiration, we can look to Magic Leap. What they’re planning to do is get as much weight off the user’s head. The core processors and, battery will be moved into a separate box that is small enough to be placed in a users pocket. The box will be connected to the glasses via cables. And on the glasses will remain cameras, sensors, and audio input/output. This will allow for a lighter and more ergonomic design.
The Ultimate Design
This is ultimately the direction of design that future AR devices should take. Rather than cramming all the components into a standalone headset. After all, it will only work if it works socially.
The Ultimate display
Now that we have a good design, the focus needs to shift to an ultimate display to support consumer applications. AR/MR displays are going to be nothing like we see today. They are going to feel like they are 1o years ahead of any current display technology. What they’ll look like is powerful chip like lenses that you would see in pair of eyeglasses. These display chips will integrate 3d objects into our world, giving us a surreal feeling of presence.
But unlike virtual reality, they should not have to “trick” your brain into seeing 3d . Graphics should give an entirely natural impression of a truly 3-dimensional object. In order for a such a realistic impression AR displays need to deliver on a few fundamental features:
- A large FOV (field of view). 120 is agreed to be the sweet spot
- High FPS,a smooth minimum refresh rate of 75Hz. Jitter/lag is unacceptable
- High Resolution, no pixels should be seen. 4k should be the standard resolution
- Occlusion Mask to make virtual objects appear opaque by blocking out specific rays of light
- Dynamic Focusing. Content should appear on multiple planes of depth and allow our eyes to naturally focus to each plane
- Near correct Light fields, virtual objects should be created the same way our eyes would see a real object. Giving our brain the impression of a truly 3d object formed.
If all this technology is properly built into the display. Then just after 1o minutes of use, it should make an OLED screen feel ancient.
The User Experience
The user shouldn’t have to say I am going to use my device now. They should already have it on. The software should be so incredibly usefully that no one feels they can go an hour without it. Now in order to achieve this, an entirely new interface paradigm needs to be designed. What does this paradigm look like? Know one is exactly sure yet. But until then there are a few things that need to be kept in mind.
First off, if any type of task in MR takes longer or feels less intuitive than a smartphone, then it will fail. People will choose to use their smartphone to complete that task rather than with their device.
Next, creating something visually stunning in MR, such as rendering a dragon is called novelty. It can be draw dropping the first few times, but after the twentieth dragon, it gets old real quick. Users need to be able to do stuff, not just watch stuff. There should be a focus on creating a variety of truly useful apps that cannot be experienced the same way through a phone, tablet or PC. Future apps will need to be set on a scale between utility and novelty. Lastly, MR/AR won’t just be another form of consuming content. It will be far superior form than current methods. Desktops confined to a computer screen can be replaced by operating systems mapped to the real world. Digital information will be linked to real world objects readily available anywhere at anytime. Therefore we must think beyond the screen.
If our ultimate device is built and fulfills these standards then we will literally have a revolutionary product in front of our eyes. It will come to replace a lot of the common hardware interfaces we see today. It’s because the device will generally become a logical choice than other installations.
For example, the device will not only be 1000 times lighter, but it will also draw several thousand times less energy than any current type of screen. A well-designed AR device can replace hundreds of conventional screens and hardware devices. There for making it the more economical and ecological choice for businesses, and consumers. Augmented/Mixed reality is truly a real advance and its something that most people don’t even know they need yet. Comment your thoughts on what you would want to see in a ‘Ulitmate AR/MR Device”.